Outdoor lighting is a real art, and the best result comes from planning ahead.
A beautiful custom home represents a huge investment of time, care and money. Someone who has decided to make that investment most likely wants the home to present its best face to the world. During the day, that face is the architecture and landscaping, but after dark, it's largely determined by the outdoor lighting.
So it's too bad when homeowners approach outdoor lighting as an afterthought—an element they postpone thinking about until the end of the project. We encourage them to start considering it earlier, for reasons of creativity and efficiency.
Improvements in LED technology—including better energy efficiency, color rendering, beam spread and pricing—make it possible to transform a home's nightscape in more ways than ever.
Maybe you'd like to make a bold statement with the entryway, create visual depth in the back yard, or experience the mood of a candlelit dinner on the patio. You may want to highlight favorite architectural and landscape features and to change the effects with the season or even on a whim. The fixtures, light sources and controls now available put all this within reach.
Getting these effects requires a skilled lighting designer—someone who knows how to blend light of varying color and intensity from different angles and fixture types, as well as how and where to put highlights while avoiding excessive bright spots and shadows.
A good designer will also make sure the lighting fixtures call attention not to themselves but to what's being lighted. Done right, the lighting will draw your eyes to the beauty of an architectural or landscape feature with no thought about where the light originated.
If the project includes a deck or patio, involving the designer early means he or she can work with the builder to conceal the wiring, which could include building chases into the deck frame or running underground conduit in just the right places.
The art of creating a good lighting scheme also includes thinking about safety, both in obvious spots, such as steps, and in not-so-obvious ones, like landscape trip hazards.
When it comes to lighting, it's also a good idea to think about modifications you might make down the road. If you plan to add a backyard dining area in a year or two and want everything to match, consider buying all the fixtures now. Lighting manufacturers are quick to drop particular lines when sales lag.
As with most aspects of custom homebuilding, it makes sense to start thinking early about the lighting budget and whether to spend just enough for a basic scheme or to invest in a more dramatic statement.
One reason a lot of people don't consider outdoor lighting until project's end is that they can't visualize how it will look. The good news is that many professional lighting designers use demo kits to show how different combinations of light will look.
Of course demos need a finished home, but the point is that you will make wiser decisions, both for your taste and your budget, if you begin thinking in the design phase about what lighting you want outside. Your custom builder and lighting designer can guide you through this process.